After All This Time, All I Have To Offer Is Casserole

It was never my intention to take a leave of absence from this space, but it seems that it happened anyway.  Oops.

If I’m being perfectly honest, it was kind of nice.  Not being tied to a camera or a computer for a little while.  I might try it more often.

Not that I don’t enjoy coming here and sharing with you – certainly I do.  I just might be doing it a little more sporadically right now (not that I was all that regular about it before).  When I make something that I think you’ll particularly appreciate, then I’ll share it with you.  That’s what this space is really for, after all.

It’s still January for a few more days.  I didn’t really make any earth-shattering resolutions at the start of this New Year.  I’ve found that I’m not very good at keeping them.  What I did decide with some certainty is that I really need to simplify.  Complicated is just…well…too complicated.  So, simple it shall be.

I’ve kind of gotten into a routine with my cooking.  Another reason posting hasn’t happened much lately – not much new to share.   Once a week or so, I make this chicken (or some variation thereon), and we eat about half of it for dinner that same day.  Then I cut the rest of the meat off the carcass and tuck it away for use another day and make this lovely dark chicken stock out of the bones.casserole2

Then, a day or so later, I make chicken and rice casserole with that leftover meat.  I know what you’re thinking – casserole is so passé (does anyone even say passé anymore, or is that passé)?  Just hear me out, though.

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See – I have a very picky toddler in my house.  He’s three, and he’s demanding.  And also sometimes unpleasant.  And unlike his older, more amenable brother, he doesn’t care much about pleasing anyone but himself.  So if he doesn’t like something?  He makes life pretty miserable for the rest of us.  Thus, rather than making two different dinners every night, I’m trying to come up with things that we can all enjoy (and that don’t involve opening a box of noodles that may also contain a packet of orange cheese-flavored powder – not that I haven’t done that a time or two in desperation).  This seems like a good enough compromise.casserole1

It’s loosely based on this casserole from the archives of Paula Deen.  I say loosely because hers involves opening a bunch of cans (canned chicken, canned soup, canned beans, canned water chestnuts, parboiled rice, etc).  My version takes sauteed onions and celery and homemade chicken stock and just the tiniest hint of heavy cream and mixes it all together with hearty brown rice and skillet roasted chicken (and maybe a smidge of extra-sharp cheddar) for a flavorful, tummy pleasing meal.  Paired with a salad for the grown-ups and some unsweetened applesauce for the kids, it’s an easy weeknight fix (and disagreeable-toddler-approved).

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Chicken and Rice Casserole

prep time: 10 minutes

cook time: 45 minutes

serves: 6-8

Ingredients

  • 2 Tablespoons oil (I used coconut, but you could use olive oil or butter – whatever you have)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2 stalks of celery, diced
  • 8 oz. cremini mushrooms, cubed (optional – this was decidedly not a toddler-approved addition, but I enjoyed it)
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 Tablespoons heavy cream
  • 6-8 oz. of cooked chicken, diced (I used one breast and one thigh off a pre-roasted chicken)
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (this was about 2 1/4 oz. by weight)
  • 2 cups brown rice, cooked according to package directions (yields approximately 6 cups cooked)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F
  2. In a large oven-proof enameled cast iron pan over medium-high heat, saute your onions and celery in oil until they begin to become translucent (if you don’t have a pan like this, you can do everything in a regular skillet and then transfer it to a casserole dish to bake in the oven).
  3. Add the mushrooms and let them get good and brown.  Taste for seasoning – add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Sprinkle the flour into the pan and stir it around.  Let it cook for a few minutes so that it loses the raw flour taste.  You’re making a roux.
  5. Pour the chicken stock in the pan and stir to combine, making sure you dissolve any lumps of flour that might be remaining.  Let it come to a boil – it should thicken.
  6. Add the heavy cream and stir to combine.  Turn off the burner.
  7. Add the chicken and the rice.  Carefully stir to combine.
  8. Add the cheese and stir through.
  9. Cover and bake in a 350F oven for 45 minutes.  Remove the lid during the last 15 minutes to let the top get good and brown.
  10. Enjoy!

 

 

Subscribing to a CSA Is Like Being on Chopped

For about four years now, I’ve been looking for a meat CSA in my area.  I’ve also looked into (but have never committed to) buying whole and half cows, purchasing pastured pigs and goats, heritage chickens and turkeys, all of which require a fairly large financial commitment and can result in a substantial amount of meat to store.  What I really wanted was a subscription service where I could pay monthly, quarterly or bi-annually and be assured a certain quantity of meat without having to commit to any one type or cut.

Finally, after much research and years of buying from a variety of local and regional farms either at the farmers market or at Harry’s, I decided to bite the bullet and test the waters with a local meat CSA.  Riverview Farms is a farm in northwest Georgia, about 50 miles north of where I live.  They offer both produce and meat subscriptions, but right now I’m only taking advantage of the meat (our garden is still producing, so we’re going to utilize that as long as we can).  They are a certified organic farm and they specialize in Berkshire pork and grass-fed beef. And they have a drop-off point that’s about four miles from my house.

We received our first box last week.  We pay $68 a month for 10 lbs. of meat.  This month we got a chuck roast (about 2.5 lbs.), two pounds of ground beef, two pounds of breakfast sausage, four bone-in pork chops (totaling a little over 2 pounds) and a pound of chorizo.  I love that we don’t know what we’re getting ahead of time, because it forces me to be creative with my dinner menus.  You can also place orders for certain items to be added to your box if you know there’s something you want.

lettuce, spinach and an egg from our own backyard

Tonight, I was struggling to think of something to make for dinner.  I knew I wanted to use some of the chorizo, and I’d pulled some spinach from our garden earlier in the day.  I also had some quinoa in the pantry.  I was drawing a blank, though, when it came to putting all of those things together into a cohesive meal – it was like a Chopped chef’s worst nightmare (although, on Chopped they probably would have thrown in peanut-butter or some kind of terrible fruit candy just to screw with me).  I decided to google those three ingredients, on a whim, and was delighted to find a recipe that fit the bill perfectly.  It even utilized those eggs I’d gathered.

I changed things up slightly by using fresh chorizo rather than dried (since that’s what I had), and I baked everything in the same pan I used to saute the chorizo, onion and spinach which resulted in a nice crisp brown crust on the bottom and edges.

Baked Quinoa with Chorizo, Spinach and Cheese
adapted from A Foodie’s Footnotes: Baked Quinoa with Spinach, Cheese and Chorizo
prep time: 20 minutes
bake time: 25 minutes
yields: 4-6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1/2 pound fresh chorizo
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cups fresh spinach, chopped
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 oz. shredded sharp cheddar cheese (about 1 cup)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
  1. Preheat the oven to 400F
  2. Cook quinoa according to package instructions
  3. Remove chorizo from casing and saute in a large heavy skillet or saute pan until browned. Break up the sausage as it cooks.
  4. Using a slotted spoon, remove chorizo from the pan and set aside.
  5. Add chopped onion to the fat rendered from cooking the chorizo and saute until browned and translucent.
  6. Add chopped spinach and stir around until wilted.
  7. Add the sausage back to the pan and remove from the heat.
  8. Drain the quinoa and place it back to the pan you cooked it in.
  9. Scramble the eggs and add them to the cooked quinoa along with 3/4 of the cheese and 2 teaspoons of the sage.  Stir to combine.
  10. Add the quinoa mixture to the sausage mixture and mix to evenly distribute the ingredients.  Spread it evenly in the pan.
  11. Sprinkle the remaining cheese and sage over the top
  12. Bake at 400F for 25 minutes, or until top is browned
  13. Enjoy!

Y’all, it was delicious.  I went back for seconds and my husband went back for thirds and fourths.  The kids were kind of indifferent, since the chorizo was spicier than what they’re used to, but I don’t think that will keep me from making this again.  I might try it with a milder sausage next time, but I’ll definitely be revisiting this recipe.  And I hope you’ll try it, too.  You could even do this as a vegetarian meal, eliminating the chorizo and spicing things up with some chipotles or chile de arbol.

If you try it, let me know.  I’ll be knocking on your door right around dinnertime.